Diddakoi Walt Whitman
Take me home...


Antigua was great. Specifically, the Galley Bay Resort was wonderful. We had a "Premium Suite" which was indeed premium, and a suite. We had a lovely bedroom area, a step-down living area with a small fridge and sink, and a HUGE bathroom (very nearly put ours to shame, which is pretty darn hard to do). Oh, and a large veranda with comfy wicker-and-cushion chaise lounges overlooking the beautiful turquoise Caribbean Sea forty feet away.

Did I mention that the ocean was forty feet away? And that it was turquoise? And beautiful? Oh, yes, yes it was.

A Room with a View

There was some amount of effort required to actually get to Antigua, as the technology of teleportation is not quite there yet. That said, we did have a nice non-stop flight from Philly, somewhat narrowing the odds that US Air would lose our luggage. Not that I wouldn't put it past them, since they've managed it on oh so many occasions, but making it a non-stop really puts the pressure on their all-star baggage losing team.

Saturday, January 14
It was miserable weather in Philly - raining cats and dogs during the night and it continued its drizzly little pattern on Saturday. We had an 11:30 a.m. flight - and the ticketing area was packed with people when we got there around 8:45. We ran into friends James and Carol and their three daughters in line while they were checking in for their flight to the Dominican Republic.

We had an uneventful flight down - it should have been about four hours, but we were a touch delayed on take-off and then had to circle for a while over the island while a storm front passed through. We landed, and the heavens opened up. They parked the plane near the terminal - remember, most of these islands do not have jetways, folks - and the pilot came on to say that they couldn't let us deplane until it let up a little. So we all sat on the plane for about a half hour until the torrential downpour abated.

Interestingly, there were some pretty big planes sitting on the tarmac, including the Virgin Airways 747 right next to us. They have non-stops from London several times a week, and British Air apparently flies daily. Good to know.

So . . . fast forward through the rather confused and primitive immigration and customs area - some things remain a bit behind the times, regardless of how many 747s one can park. We found our transit contact and pretty soon we were in the back of a van with two other couples on our way to Galley Bay Resort. We passed through what I hope was the poor section of town and killed time by keeping a tally as we drove. Final score: ragged-looking dogs - 5, Chinese restaurants - 4, outdoor barbecues made out of old oil drums - 3. Cats only managed a single representative, although that poor showing may have been as a result of some or all of the other contenders listed above.

Our Room - second floor on the right- KLM Photo

We arrived and unloaded our (heavy) bags and checked in at a beautiful open-air lobby. We sat for a few minutes until a large golf cart arrived and we and our luggage were stowed onboard. There is a nice sized lake separating the lobby from the rest of the hotel grounds - we crossed that and were given a tour of the grounds. Our room was the last one on the beach, on the second floor.

We pretty much hadn't eaten anything since breakfast and it was now approaching 8:00 p.m. We noted the bottle of champagne that had been left chilling for us on the coffee table in our room and headed over to the Sea Grape, the main restaurant in the resort, listening to the tree frogs on the way. They are very hard to spot, only being about the size of a finger tip, but they have powerful lungs and as a group provide a beautiful serenade - "Boop, boop. Boop, boop."

We had appetizers - I had roasted artichokes and Gary had curried chicken mouselline. We both had rack of lamb which was very tasty - and molten chocolate cake for dessert. We shared a bottle of Mondavi 2002 California Merlot - while nothing earthshattering, it was a nice food wine and went well with our selections. We retired to our palatial suite and conked out.

Sunday, January 15
We woke up early, then went back to sleep. I got up and had coffee (did I mention the coffee maker in our room?) on the veranda. With my new friends: Mr. and Mrs. Finch and their several dozens friends, foes and relatives. As soon as I went out on the veranda, several appeared and checked me out. When I went back inside to get my coffee, one of them bounced up to the little end table and peered in the window, silently willing me to bring them FOOD. I had brought a bag of peanuts, so I openend them and crushed a few on a saucer and put them on the veranda floor.

Oh my. Vicious little things, finches. Or at least bitchy. Squabbles flew, old wounds were opened, new feuds were established. No one saw fit to challenge the shy but much larger dove that came a-calling, but the finch war continued on the side while she ate whatever she wanted.

Beach at Galley Bay - KLM Photo

We made our way down to the beach, passing two of the grounds keepers who were trying to coax a wayward blue crab back into the ocean. He had fastened his claw-y grip on the tines of their rake and they were attempting to pry him off without losing a finger in the process. We found two lounge chairs under a thatched palm umbrella right in front of our room. We lazed and read - I made it halfway through "Old Man's War" on the flight down and I finished it on the beach. Very good - too science fiction for your tastes, Mom, but it was a very interesting book.

We had skipped breakfast, so by noon we were both pretty hungry. There are two restaurants at the hotel - the Sea Grape, the main one where we had eaten the previous night - and the Gaugain, which serves lunch and dinner only, and dinner requires reservations. The hotel is all-inclusive, so it doesn't cost any more to eat at one restaurant versus another. Our room is the last of the beachfront buildings, and is very close to the Gaugain restaurant, so we went there for lunch.

The tables at Gaugain are each set under their own thatched palapas looking out on the ocean. I had a small order of nachos and a cobb salad. Gary had the buffalo wings - which were big enough to have come from real buffalo - and a cheeseburger. All of it was quite tasty. Once we were sated, we went back to the beach, noting a furry ferret-like creature in the bushes on our way. We discovered later that it was a mongooose, which makes me feel good considering my deep and sincere lack of appreciation for snakes.

Gaugain Restaurant

Gary got his underwater camera and went for a snorkel to test it out. He said the water was nice and after taking the camera back to the room, he went back out to swim. After about ten minutes I decided to join him and I walked down the beach to where he and a small group of other guests were in the water. As I began wading in, he saw me and said, "Hello, Gorgeous." Another woman was floating in the water near him and she said, "Oh, I thought you were talking to me!" and laughed. The water was nice and warm and calm and we drifted and floated for about twenty minutes.

We showered and got cleaned up and went to the Sea Grape for dinner. We both had a salmon and lobster appetizer that was nice; I had chicken and Gary had a mixed fish grill that was quite tasty. On our way back to the room, we decided to walk on the beach and went down the steps past another couple that was sitting and watching the waves. As we went by them, the woman called out, "Hello, Gorgeous!" We all laughed.

Monday, January 16
Gary had made arrangements with a dive operation to go out for a two tank dive in the morning. They would pick us up at the lobby at 8:30 so we had one of the golf carts take us up with our gear. We waited and watched a few cars and vans come through the property gates. Then a beat-up little grey Toyota Camry 4-door sedan pulled up. The front quarter on the driver's side had apparently been the loser in an on-road version of "tag". The driver was a very large man with a long grey-blond mane of hair. There was a rather large woman in the passenger seat and another man wearing a Dale Earnhardt Jr. T-shirt ("Number 8!") in the back. Gary said, "Do you think that's them?" "No, that's definitely not them," I replied.

[Guess again.]

I don't know why, but the "Dueling Banjos" melody sprang into my head as we walked up. My heart leapt with joy when we saw that the trunk was nearly full and there didn't appear to be room for our gear. Unfortunately, things were moved around and everything fit - and as an added bonus, I didn't have to have the propane tank on my lap. The driver was John, owner of the Dive Antigua operation, and the other two, Lynn and Mike, were other divers from Wisconsin.

We drove out of the resort and stopped about a mile further to wait for another car to follow us. After they joined us, we headed south for about half an hour to Jolly Bay, past livestock wandering in the streets, several cats, numerous dogs and no Chinese restaurants. We made it to Jolly Bay and pulled up next to our dive boat, which looked exactly as one should have expected given the appearance of the car. It was a small cruiser, with a canopied back deck and sixteen dive tanks in a holder. We had to wait a while for John to install the new battery in the boat, and I was wondering about how this adventure would turn out.

Despite appearances, the dive trip was quite good. John has been running dive operations on various islands for thirty-something years. He has a stock of one-liners that he throws out with alarming speed, along with some real tidbits of information about diving, biology, economics and science. We went west from Jolly Harbor towards the island of Monserrat, still belching smoke from its volcanic eruption several years ago.

Monserrat Volcanos - GAL Photo

We did two dives in the same general area and they were quite nice with some lovely shrimp and crabs, not to mention some huge spiney lobsters.

Crab - GAL Photo

Peppermint Shrimp - GAL Photo

Christmas Tree Worm - GAL Photo

Puffer Fish - GAL Photo

Spiny Lobster - GAL Photo

We didn't make it back to the hotel until after 2:00, so we dropped our stuff back at the room and went to Gaugain for lunch again. And had the same thing again, but this time I had a burger instead of the salad. The surf had picked up considerably since we'd been gone and the waves were crashing against the beach. We went down to the beach and laid out and read until the sun went down.

Since we had eaten lunch late, we waited until nearly 9:00 before going to dinner. We had another nice meal at Sea Grape - Gary had a spinach salad, I had escargot in a puff pastry and we both had steaks.

Tuesday, January 17

Today was a "do nothing" day. We lounged around having coffee and some breadcrumbs with our friends the finches. The sea was really rough, with big breakers and red flags on the beaches, so we went to the pool. It's a nice pool with a huge rock waterfall on one end and lots of chaises and umbrellas spread around. We relaxed and read and visited the juice bar (a self-serve station with four different kinds of juice available). We also made arrangements to go back out on John's dive boat the next day - he only operates Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Pool at Galley Bay

There are loads of little lizards that come out during the day and sun themselves around the property, just like the guests. The larger ones are a brilliant green color. The lizards, that is, not the guests.

Lizard - GAL Photo

Lizard - GAL Photo

Lizard - GAL Photo

We went to the Sea Grape for lunch and noted the much wider selection there - a soup, several different appetizers, salads and a larger variety of sandwiches and entrees than Gaugain. I had a spinach-goat cheese quesadilla and grilled mahi in a garlic sauce - very nice - and Gary had a steak with onion rings and french fries. The wait staff commented on the fact that we hadn't been by for breakfast during our visit - they make it a point to try to really get to know the guests during their stay. The restaurant manager came up and asked if I had met my "cousin" yet - there is a Lynnette Myers that works at Gaugain in the evenings and she had been keeping an eye out for us.

In the afternoon, we did more of the same. I had to stop by the computer room and download a couple of files onto my jump drive. I did a little work on a presentation and sent some e-mails, and then got back to the important work of reading and relaxing. Having finished "Old Man's War", I started "Island in the Sea of Time," by S.M. Stirling. It is a time travel tale with a twist - the entire island of Nantucket and all of its inhabitants are moved back in time to 1250 B.C. Very interesting.

Lounge at Galley Bay

Gary worked out and afterwards we met in the open air lounge. It's very relaxing, right next to the deck overlooking the ocean. We went back to the room to clean up and change for dinner. It started raining, but it stopped once we sat down. We both decided to have spinach salads and lobster - grilled, with garlic and butter. Very nice.

Lounge at Galley Bay

Wednesday, January 18
Up a little earlier this morning, since we decided that we should eat some breakfast before heading out for the dives. We took our dive gear with us, had an omelette and pancakes, then went up to the lobby to wait for John. We met Nigel and Gilleen, a nice couple from England - Nigel was going diving with us. John, Mike and Lynn pulled up - luckily John had his van fixed, so we didn't have to deal with the little Toyota. We headed back down to Jolly Bay and got underway. This time we stayed closer to shore and headed south. We did two nice dives near Curtain Bluff - saw a stingray and a nurse shark as well as some nice fish and reefs.

Spotted Drum - GAL Photo

Four Eyed Butterfly Fish - GAL Photo

Arrow Crab - GAL Photo

We didn't get back to the hotel until about 3:30, so we dropped our stuff off and went down to Gaugain for our usual late lunch. After about ten minutes, Nigel and Gilleen turned up as well and were seated near us. There is a small gazebo next to the restaurant and it was being set up for a wedding - the groom was hanging around the bar in his tuxedo, looking very nervous. Around 4:00, the bride appeared and we and the other two tables of diners got to watch the wedding. They had a photographer and a videographer, with the officiant and two of the waitstaff serving as witnesses. Oh, and a small steel drum band for music. It was nice and all the people in the restaurant applauded when they kissed.

We went back to the pool for the rest of the afternoon and read. On Wednesday, they hold the Manager's Cocktail Party in the main restaurant, so we got cleaned up and went down there. They had a nice spread of hors d'ouevres set up and the managers walked around and greeted everyone, many by name.

We met Andrew Baxter, the executive chef and spoke with him for quite a while - he has been at the hotel for six years and reminded me a bit of Elijah Wood, "Frodo" from Lord of the Rings without the curly hair, although Gary didn't see it. They serve 140 meals at the restaurants for each meal when they are at capacity, plus snacks and hors d'ouevres in the evenings. The hardest part for him is having to plan everything so far in advance, since they have to have most of their supplies and ingredients flown in. He has a sketchbook that he works with to design his dishes, sometimes drawing a single ingredient, like asparagus, and drawing the rest of the dish to complement it.

He has certain dishes that he likes to keep on the Sea Grape menu because they are favorites, and then he'll add other things depending on what's in season or available. The Gaugain restaurant is one that he is still working on - they do a fixed menu with two seatings each evening. He tries to blend in the concept of a French artist who lived in the South Pacific, now set in the Caribbean.

We saw Nigel and Gilleen and talked with them - this was their third time to Galley Bay and they love it. They joined us for dinner and we had a nice conversation. They live just west of London and Nigel works for Morgan Stanley in their IT department. He travels to the states from time to time, mostly to New York. Gilleen's father just passed away so this was a bit of a difficult time, and they appreciated the chance to come to the island for a fortnight.

Thursday, January 19

Enjoying the beach

It was rather windy today and the sea, while not as rough, was still tossing some good sized waves on the beach. We had coffee, then went down to the beach in front of our room. We went for a walk up to the other end of the bay and put our feet in the water, but decided against swimming. We had a couple of passing showers during the day, but the major one happened while we were at lunch and by the time we were done, it was sunny again. We had the spinach-goat cheese quesadillas, I had butterfish with vegetables in filo and Gary had a steak.

After lunch I sent e-mails, worked on a presentation and made a couple of phone calls, while Gary went to take some photos of the birds along the lake.

Egret - GAL Photo

Bird - GAL Photo

Blue Heron - GAL Photo

Pelican - GAL Photo

Blue Heron - GAL Photo

We met at the bar and watched the day's cruise ship depart - the resort is south of St. John's, the main port where the cruise ships dock, so we get to see them coming in early in the morning and heading out around dinner time. Some of the ships are huge with up to 4,000 passengers and there are times when four of them are in port at the same time - what a mad house.

Dinner on Thursday night is a huge barbecue buffet. We saw them carrying the whole roast pig out - wow. They had a grill set up and offered steak, fish, chicken and ribs, in addition to the carved pork. There were soup and salads as well, plus a big dessert buffet. It was very nicely done, but then again, the food has been simply wonderful the whole week.

Friday, January 20
We were awakened a couple of times by some very loud rainstorms during the night. Unfortunately in the morning, it was even windier than the day before, with some rather ominous clouds on the horizon. We lazed around with our coffee and debated whether to go to town to do some shopping if the weather was going to continue to be bleak. We looked through the Antigua brocheres in the room and decided against going into town - how many over-priced jewelry shops can one see on a trip?

We headed to the pool and found some chaises under a thatched umbrella. Good thing, too, with the occasional passing downpours. We read, ate lunch and talked to a few people around the pool area. We found several people who had been to this resort six, ten, even twelve times, and all of them said that the rough, rainy weather was unusual. We did hear that some other months are nicer, but that usually the ocean was much calmer.

In the afternoon we went back to the room and I packed the dive bag - boy we have a lot of stuff. We read and started packing our other bags before dinner. We went back to the Sea Grape for dinner and had salmon and shrimp appetizers, and grilled lobster. It was even better than the first time. We had a bottle of 2002 Beaujolais - it had been a running joke with Heather, one of the waitresses, all week long, so we finally made good on our promise to drink it. After dinner we sat in the open air bar for a while and contemplated dancing, but they didn't play anything that appealed to our feet, so we gave up and headed back to the room.

Saturday, January 21

Another rather fitful sleep, as the rain showers returned in earnest. We were both up early - the weather was looking quite grim. When I peeked outside, our resident boss finch jumped on the table and inquired about his breakfast - I had taken a little piece of roll the night before so I scattered the crumbs on the terrace for him. We decided to head up and have some breakfast ourselves - we just made it under shelter when the skies opened up again. We watched the rain and the waves and laughed at the finches. They descend on the breakfast tables - attended or not - and fly away with the sugar packets, squabbling with one another, of course.

Finch with sugar packets

After a tasty repast we went to the computer center to check e-mail and the flight status. Unfortunately it appeared to be on time, so I guess we'll have to leave. I bought some postcards and stamps and we arranged to stay in the room until 1:00. We walked on the beach again and I found a few "Sea Biscuits" - sea urchin shells. We had them collect the bags and went up to the Sea Grape to have some lunch before our pick-up at 2:30. We saw Nigel and Gilleen and said our goodbyes - they will be here another week. We also got hugs from Heather our waitress as well.

I cannot say enough about the service - everyone, the groundskeepers, managers, bartenders, waitstaff - everyone was incredibly friendly and outgoing and focused on making sure that the guests were having a good time. And the food was really outstanding - we did not have a bad meal, which in an all inclusive resort is not always the case. The guests were also a high class group - probably because there were more Brits than Yanks, and many were return visitors. We would definitely return to Galley Bay again.

Back to the airport where I upgraded us to First Class for the return flight. The airport waiting area was nothing special - Gary did some shopping, but there was nothing special. Our flight was fine, no problems and we both slept a bit. We landed ahead of time and breezed through immigration. Our bags were among the first off the baggage belt and we went through customs and waited for the parking service to bring the car up. We drove down to the shore to prolong our beach time for one more day - The sand isn't quite as white here, and I have the feeling the water is not exactly the same temperature!